Sinful Sunday: panoply

No arty photo this week. This one is a straight-up catalog of the various items that Gawan used on me: mostly implements for impact, but with a couple of bondage pieces thrown in for good measure.

panoply
Top row: leather paddle and suede flogger; leather flyswatter; cuffs; spreader bars. Middle row: canes in two weights; patu; belt; razor strop. Bottom row: riding crop; tawse; light flogger and leather fly whisk; birch. Items are shown in approximate order of first use.

It was very clear to me that he was using the impact implements lightly, even though I generally didn’t see him landing the blows. Logic tells me he would have started at zero and then ramped up until I was reacting, which didn’t take long at all. I definitely had a sense that he wasn’t putting much weight into it*, which I suppose I intuited from the speed of the strokes and the fact that his breathing didn’t change.

The leather paddle got the most use – it gave him the reactions that he liked best. The birch was the most… memorable.

[*With one exception, which I may write about.]


Some months ago I pointed out the existence on my blog of both a mystery and a clue to solving it. The mystery is still out there and there have been plenty of clues lately. I don’t want to tell you what the mystery is because it might give away the game completely and that wouldn’t be any fun.

So, do you know what the mystery is? And have you solved it? Let me know in the comments.


Edit: Andrew and Pixie of Kink Craft chose my image for the Round-up.

The intention for this may not have been for an arty image but it has turned out to be one. This is like a kinky patchwork quilt and that just works. The individual images tiled into one are just like the panels of a quilt.

Thanks guys! The quilt effect is due in part to the fact that the background of all the photos is the sheet on the bed, so it’s literally textile. And one of my (old) hobbies is sewing.

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the fantasy and reality of my arrival

In the lead-up to the trip, I spent some time fantasizing about Gawan. That didn’t come easily though: it made me feel disloyal to Wolf.

After my first date with Gawan, I happened to mention to Wolf that I hadn’t really done any fantasizing about that trip in advance, which surprised him. How would I know whether I actually wanted to do anything sexual with Gawan if I didn’t even try it out in the safety of my mind first? Good question. Wolf not only didn’t mind, he expected it — and it was a valid exercise to help me figure out what I wanted.

But I was also aware that a fantasy is fiction, designed by me, for me. What Gawan did in the fantasy would be exactly what I wanted, limited only by my own self-knowledge. I didn’t want to set real-Gawan up for failure compared to fantasy-Gawan, and I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment when I eventually had to face the fact that real-Gawan wasn’t psychic.

So I let my mind roam, but cautiously: I imagined my arrival. I’d go through passport control, heave my bag off the carousel, exit through double doors that hid the public arrivals area from view. Once I passed through the doors, there would be a crowd of people standing beyond the barrier and looking expectantly in my direction. Somewhere in that crowd, one man was looking for me. I’d scan the faces. Ah, there, to my left. We’d smile at each other, while I pushed my cart toward him and closed the distance.

The way I’d constructed the scene turned out to be gratifyingly accurate. I got a few details wrong: passport control was done by a camera not a person; the airport was a little older than I’d envisioned, and the ceilings lower. But that irrelevant detail of him being to my left — that was actually correct. I hadn’t predicted that he’d pull out a bottle of Coke with a flourish, out of (very valid) concern that my blood sugar was about to crash.

Next step: the hug. When Gawan had arrived in my city many months earlier, we had our very first hug. I’m naturally reserved, and I was finally meeting in the flesh a man whose presence in my life had so far been limited to a flow of data through the internet. That first hug was kind of awkward, which, knowing me, was probably inevitable. He was exhausted from a grueling trip, but I know I was holding back.

When I imagined this second meeting, I crafted a new hug. It was the culmination of long hours of airports and airplanes, months of pensive waiting. I felt more sure of him, of the relationship, of myself. So I’d fling my arms around him unreservedly and press myself against him, my head against his chest, and smile contentedly (not that he could see), just savoring being there, with him. Did I imagine all those details, or am I remembering how it actually happened? I’m not sure. Does it matter?

Once we got to the quiet train station, he strode away from the few other people and claimed a seat on a bench at the far end of the platform. I cuddled up next to him. As with the hug, this was a way of overwriting the ambiguities of the first date — and my overly conservative estimate of the proper personal space allowance when sitting on a bench beside my internet boyfriend.

The plan was to stay at a hotel near the station for the first night, then trek back to his place the next day, which gave me two likely settings in which to imagine our first fuck. Despite its inherent sexiness, I did not see it happening at the hotel. I’m not entirely sure why, but I suppose it felt a bit rushed and impersonal.

That’s not to say that the hotel room was a scene of chasteness and decorum. It was small, and the two beds (one double, one single) filled it, such the most inviting place to sit was at the foot of the double bed. We came in, we sat, we kissed, we touched. My pants were off within about 5 minutes after the door closed, and I was naked not long after that.

I had gotten much more rest on the plane than I’d thought possible, so I didn’t immediately need a nap. What I got instead was a spanking, followed by a touch of the flogger, and then the leather paddle (in other words, “the travel kit”), while wearing a pair of black, fun-fur-lined leather cuffs.

half-assed
The original image had a certain, very NSFW, symmetry about it.

I was more than satisfied, and happy to leave things there. Fatigue eventually caught up with me and I crashed.

addressing doubts one step at a time

I regularly go for walks on a favorite route that’s cheery and pleasant and fairly quiet. There’s a certain kind of thinking that happens at a walking pace, and I found myself thinking a lot on that route.

At a walking pace, I analyzed my “first date” with Gawan. There were good bits on that trip and bits that were less good. Overall it felt neutral. Our connection via email and Skype was good and strong, but in person something seemed to be missing. Our last hours together were during a long, tiring and stressful travel day, and as I climbed aboard the shuttle bus and saw him wave from the door of the hotel, I checked in with how I was feeling, looking for sadness and disappointment about our parting. There wasn’t any.

I’m sensitive and I absorb a lot of information so when new things happen it takes me time to process; I wasn’t likely to come up with answers during the trip itself.

I’ve never had a relationship start online before. When we finally met for the first time, maybe I was simply flooded with the whole collection of real-life little details and just needed some time to internalize what I would have picked up over the course of months in an ordinary courtship. Physical presence. Body language. The approach–crest–dissipation of a smile. How quickly he walks. Would he steal food off my plate, or object if I stole from his? Bandwidth limitations subtly interrupt the flow of conversation, and Skype’s simulation of eye contact is pure fakery.

We had both already said “I love you” many times, but even though we were, for once, close enough to touch, I sensed a different kind of distance. Why? He had been somewhat ill throughout the trip, so maybe he didn’t seem like himself because he didn’t feel like himself. Also, the location we chose ended up being a lot of work, and a great deal of energy that would have been better spent on each other instead went into the most basic of tasks.

There was definitely still something between us though. Maybe the first meet was always going to be challenging. Maybe when we chose our destination we bit off more than we could chew. I concluded that the first date likely wasn’t representative and that I should give it another try. I wanted to meet again, preferably someplace easier, ideally on his home turf. See who he is when he’s at home, literally.

During moments of play, I had noted that I was only doing things I’d done in high school (i.e. not much), and that this felt oddly comforting. But later I was shaken when I realized that my epiphany hadn’t actually transformed my thinking about sexuality as completely as I’d both believed and hoped. If the hang-ups were absent with Wolf but present with Gawan, then I hadn’t had an attitude overhaul — I’d simply created an exception for Wolf, and sex with anyone else was still fundamentally scary.

At a walking pace, I dissected my epiphany, shaved off slices and put them under the microscope. I recalled that trusting Wolf had come first and intuited that trust was the key here. Even though I already trusted Gawan more than anyone aside from Wolf, it somehow didn’t seem like enough. Why not? Sex makes me feel incredible vulnerable, like handing someone a razor-sharp knife and baring  my belly. I wanted to resolve this issue before our second date, which would give me months rather than the years it had taken the first time, and I fervently hoped I could figure it out in that time. I fed my trust of Gawan by meditating on what he had already shown me: interest, empathy, kindness, support, patience, being unequivocally on my side and never diminishing me in any way. And I eased down my excessively high threshold by asking myself what more I could reasonably expect him to do or say (conclusion: nothing), and questioning whether the feeling of not enough trust was because I didn’t trust myself.

At a walking pace, I examined monogamy. Cheating — unilaterally breaking an agreement you have with someone who trusts you — is wrong. But through respectful (re)negotiation, the parties should be able to agree to any terms they like. I don’t think that sexual non-exclusivity is inherently wrong, but it is entirely unfamiliar to me. I’d been monogamous forever. Wolf agreed that I could have sex with Gawan if that’s what I wanted. But how far could I get by rationally deliberating about something as emotional as sex? What would my gut say in the moment? Or after?

At a walking pace, I asked myself whether having sex with Gawan was what I authentically wanted or what I thought I should want, since I’ve had difficulty with “want” sex versus “want to want” sex before, but one incident gave me some insight. This is sort of a polyamorous arrangement, we hadn’t had sex with each other, and we hadn’t asked each other for sexual exclusivity outside of pre-existing relationships, which for him would have amounted to celibacy. Some time ago he let me know about a BDSM scene that he had arranged with someone new and which would include sex. Rational me understood perfectly. Emotional me punched the wall. (Unfortunately, I know how to throw a punch. It took months before my hand stopped aching.) I rationally examined my reasons not to feel jealous, and then felt jealous anyway. Perhaps it was because he would be having a hot experience with another woman and I wanted it to be me.

What would I regret more, sex or not-sex? Sex would force me to confront long-standing issues about vulnerability, trust, monogamy, and commitment that I may or may not have managed to resolve sufficiently. Not-sex would mean I’d miss out on potentially fun experiences (maybe even adventures), and a deeper connection with someone I love. I decided that not-sex would be the bigger regret.

So, at a walking pace, I picked apart every issue until they lay in shreds at my feet. When these issues ceased to pop up every time I hit my stride, what did come to mind was this: I guess I’m ready for our second date.

the love of four men in one weekend

I exaggerate of course. It wasn’t really a weekend — it was about a 48-hour period starting on a Saturday afternoon. But during this time, four men told me they loved me.

Wolf made small gestures, such as making gourmet sandwiches (complete with little love notes) for my first flight. And then there was the grand gesture first made many months ago (and subsequently reaffirmed more than once) when he agreed to amend the terms of our relationship to allow for one specific exception to our monogamy, without which the trip likely wouldn’t have happened. When he dropped me off at the airport (sending me into the care of another man) and said he loved me, I knew in the marrow of my bones ­— as I have for years ­— that it was absolutely true.

The purpose of the trip was to spend time with Gawan. After serendipitously meeting online, I was surprised to find myself falling for a man I’d never met. I’ve termed that emotion “love” for over a year now. When he picked me up at the airport on the far side of the world and said he loved me, I felt completely secure in his love, though it still feels fresh. This was only our second time meeting – our “second date”, if you will.

I took the opportunity to visit two friends en route, one of whom (Lucas) is the only ex who I still consider to be a real friend. We don’t keep in touch as much as we should (he’s a self-described recluse and workaholic, and I haven’t been reaching out) but we’ve vowed to do better. I’ve been thinking about him more since I started blogging because he was the person who first told me about BDSM. During our brief visit, I raised the topic and was pleased to find that he’s still interested in it. Why pleased? It means that I still know him, it’s an interest we broadly share, and I now have a trusted friend I can talk to about it. When he dropped me off at airport #2 and said he loved me (there’s something about airports, or at least infrequent goodbyes and hellos), it was no shock — I’m one of his oldest friends — but the word “love” is new. This is the love of a deep friendship built on the pillars of years.

The fourth man is Mr. Pleasant Surprises, whom I’ve known a little longer than I’ve known Wolf but we’ve been in touch only very sporadically over the years. It wasn’t until we visited in May that I got any hint of how much he cared for me — the delighted smiles, the warm hugs, the arm flung around my neck as we walked together. I invited myself to crash at his place. This time he shared things with me that I hadn’t known and I came to understand that I’m one of the few people he trusts, and that he has an even bigger love and touch deficit than I do. He’s a self-described loner, so I was even more surprised that he invited me in emotionally. We talked for a few hours, and at one point we just stood and held each other. We looked into each other’s eyes, seeing fondness, acceptance and caring, both of us drinking it up, and he kissed me. And told me that he loved me.

In reference to Mr. PS, Gawan playfully decreed “no more boyfriends”, not that that’s where I see this heading. But PS has made it abundantly clear that he values this relationship; I’ve never had a lot of friends myself and I can’t recall any friend ever expressing their appreciation for me so intensely. I want people in my life who want me in their lives. I’ve heard of that notion, of course, but hadn’t personally experienced it until recently. It seems I still have things to learn about healthy relationships.

With four declarations of love in the space of a weekend (give or take), I feel loved. Even lovable, which is… unfamiliar.

This is right. This is good. I was in need of more love in my life and somehow I’ve stumbled upon quite a lot of it.

Sinful Sunday: latitude and longitude

So here I am, off having adventures with Gawan. I’ve been off my computer for about a week already, which is a minor miracle, but it does appreciably slow down the blogging.

Since I arrived at Gawan’s place, I’ve been exploring the neighborhood while trying not to get rained on. None of the sites and activities has been more than about a 20-minute drive away, and some of the more spectacular views are, amazingly, within walking distance. (Comparably long hikes in my own stomping grounds would get me to the Italian grocery store, or, going the opposite direction, within view of farmland.)

The Sinful Sunday theme this week is “shoot from below” and I have two photos that fit the bill.

falls

But if you’re after something more literally sexy, how about this one:

lat and long

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wordplay

I’m super excited! In a few days, I’m going on a big trip to a country I’ve never visited before. By myself. I never travel alone. And I’m a little cagey about discussing it with friends and family, but it’s hard to travel to another continent without actually telling anyone. Who needs to know anything about it? And how do I explain it – to others, to myself?

So I try words on for size: some true, some potentially true, and some definitely not true.


“I’m going on a trip.”

“I’m going on a vacation overseas. No, Wolf isn’t coming.”

“Wolf is too busy with his thesis to do any travelling until it’s done.”

“It’s difficult for Wolf to travel these days, what with needing a blood test every two weeks.”

“He’s not interested in this destination. This trip is for me.”

“He can focus on the thesis and I get a break from it for a while.”

“I’m visiting a friend.”

“I have a girlfriend who’s living there.”

“I’m visiting a good friend.”

“I’ll be staying with my friend.”

“…my friend and his family.”

“I’m visiting my boyfriend.”

“…my lover.”

“…a dom.”

“…my dom.”

“…my Dom.”

“We met when I was studying overseas.”

“…online.”

“…through friends.”

“We met… around.”

“Oh yes, I’m taking advantage of a layover to visit some other friends on the way.”

“I planned this trip with a layover so en route I’m briefly visiting a friend, who recently declared that he loved me, and I’ve invited myself to crash at his house. Did I mention I once had a crush on him? And then I’m going to hang out with an ex-boyfriend.”

“Sightseeing? Well, I’m going to a couple of major places but otherwise just hanging out. I don’t really know where I’ll be — my friend is organizing everything. Yes, it’s very kind of him.”

“We’ve discussed the itinerary and my interests. There are a couple of things that we’re going to do because I want to, but otherwise I’m putting myself in his hands and just going along for the ride.”

“I’ve asked permission to do a couple of things, which he has told me that he’ll allow, but otherwise I expect to do as I’m told.”

“There will be local outings. There will be a flight. There will be leather cuffs. Not necessarily in that order.”

“I’m not sure where exactly we’re going, but it doesn’t really matter because the only scenery that’s guaranteed is interior. You know, hotel rooms.”

“I’m travelling thousands of miles for sex. Maybe. Definitely travelling, for maybe-sex. For Schrodinger’s sex.”

“I’m going on a sex vacation. The shows (every hour on the hour) include spankings, floggings, and fuckings, the climax is a climax and everyone screams. Kind of like a roller coaster, or a log ride. No, you don’t get a plastic cape if you sit in the splash zone.”

“Don’t expect me to post many photos to Facebook; the number of photos seems to be inversely proportional to the fun I’m having, or I take loads, get overwhelmed, and post none.”

“I don’t expect to post photos because I’ll mostly be hanging out with my friend.”

“…because we’ll probably be doing things where you wouldn’t post the photos to Facebook.”

“I might post photos, not on Facebook, but on my anonymous sex blog that you don’t know about, and they won’t be of scenery but of my reddened ass, inter alia. A connoisseur will be able to discern whether the marks are from a bare-hand spanking, a paddle, a flogger, a cane, a crop or a single-tail whip.”

“My husband is dropping me off at the airport. During my layover, I’m visiting a man who loves me and an ex-boyfriend. I’m going to get picked up on far side by my boyfriend… lover… Dom. Should be interesting.”

Gawan: hotel interlude

The room we checked out of that morning was clean but spartan and worn: brightly painted walls, easy-clean white tile floor, one window that didn’t open and one that didn’t close, a tired air conditioner, and a few sticks of inexpensive furniture including two single beds. The hotel was on a major street, so there was always the hum (or honking) of traffic.

This new hotel room the opposite in many ways: pale walls and sheets, dark carpet, dark fixtures and furnishings, a kitchenette and fridge, a couch, everything clean and new. And quiet. Hell, I was impressed with the mere existence of the bathtub, and a toilet where the lever didn’t disconnect itself from the flapper every other time you flushed. It just felt so civilized, but my enjoyment was tinged with mild regret that I’d be spending so little time there.

Well, almost everything was in good repair. When Gawan decided to run a bath for me, we found that the plug, which should have been screwed into threading in the drain, was loose in the bottom of the tub because the pressure switch was broken. Fortunately it was stuck closed rather than open, so simply screwing it into place plugged the tub.

With the water now running, Gawan took charge of ordering some food since he was hungry and I was starving. He dialled room service but the person he reached wasn’t able to take the order and told him that someone would call back to the room shortly. No call came. So Gawan went down to the restaurant to place the order in person, and came back up to the room with a promise that the food would follow.

While all this was going on, I was having a relaxing soak. It was an ordinary soaker tub: deep but built for one. But the idea was to share a bath, so upon his return, Gawan shoehorned himself in at the uncomfortable faucet end without complaint. After a while he got out again in anticipation of dealing with the arrival of the food. But no food arrived. He went back down to the restaurant to scare it up.

I got out of the bath shortly after he left. Dried and dressed, I just wanted to relax but I thought it would be wise to call down and make arrangements for the shuttle before the torpor kicked in. The front desk advised that the shuttles went every 30 minutes, so which one did I want? There were two times that seemed reasonable — 7:30 was definitely early, and 8:00 would get me there on time. I wasn’t feeling too lucky. I chose the 7:30.

Gawan was gone for quite a while and I was beginning to feel lonely — we were spending our time together apart, and I was busying myself with email and catching up on blogs. Finally he burst into the room, triumphant with white plastic takeout bag in hand, the successful hunter and provider. But the hour was late, so I had to inhale as much of the gourmet burger and fries as I could in what little time was left.

And then, the inevitable: it was time for me to go.

Gawan helped me with my bags down to the lobby. There was no sign of the shuttle. After a few minutes I asked the concierge, “Will 7:30 shuttle be here soon?”

“Oh, the shuttles don’t run on a schedule. You have to book it in advance for whenever you want it.”

“Aha. I did book it. For 7:30.”

“I’m sorry, there’s no record of that… Oh wait. Here it is. I’m sorry, it looks like this wasn’t passed along to the driver. Let me call him now and see where he is.” He called. “He’ll be here very soon, just a few minutes.”

Mhmm. “A few minutes.” Because it was the hotel’s error, the concierge was prepared to pay for a cab. And there was a cabbie right there, regarding me expectantly… But it was only about 7:40, so I decided to chance it and wait for the shuttle. The cabbie left. And the shuttle arrived — it really was “a few” minutes after all.

At the door of the hotel, Gawan gave me a hug and a kiss and sent me on my way.

I was anxious to get on the damned shuttle and get back to the damned airport. I’d relax when I reached the gate.

I was feeling so frazzled from the difficult day of travel that it took a while for me to see the forest for the trees: Two weeks makes for an epic first date, but we still liked each other enough at the end of it that we chose to spend those last few hours together, rather than plotting our immediate escape from each other. Gawan felt, and rightly so, that it would be more comfortable (and of course more private) to spend the time at his hotel. In the face of a swarm of irritations beyond our control, and neither of us being at the peak of health, he got me to the hotel, got me relaxed and bathed, got me fed, and generally did his best to take care of me. That’s what was important.

Gawan: escape from the airport

Gawan and I were in transit (I would be in the city for several hours, he overnight) and negotiating how we would wrap up our time together. He could have left me at the airport, in which case I would have toddled off to try to entertain myself in the bustling terminal with food and window shopping and free wifi. But we preferred to spend those hours together.

Since he had to check in at a hotel anyway, his notion was that I’d come along and we’d spend the time together in comfort, and then he’d bundle me off back to the airport to catch my flight. Simple.

Or so it seemed.

He hadn’t managed to book a room in advance, but this was a big city with many hotels near the airport. We found an information kiosk, which allowed him to select and book a room online, and then he phoned the hotel to have the shuttle bus pick us up.

We headed out to the pick-up point and waited. And waited. Having just left a sweltering country, we weren’t properly dressed for the chill. Down the way was a taxi stand, the back end of the line of taxis ebbing and flowing toward us. The queue of travellers, which was slowly zippering together with the queue of taxis, lengthened inexorably until it ran into and then past us. We shuffled ourselves and our bags closer to the curb to try (mostly unsuccessfully) not to be an obstruction. Eventually a security guard came over to ask us what we were doing, since we obviously weren’t waiting for a taxi. When Gawan explained about the shuttle, the guard replied that the shuttles go to a completely different location on a different level. We were baffled as to how the message had gotten so garbled, but vacated the spot.

Having wasted time in the cold, I was feeling irritable. Now back inside the terminal, the early start, the lack of food, the rigors of travel, and the sheer exhaustion started to catch up with me. I was tired and frustrated. I couldn’t think. Everything seemed like a bad idea to the point where I began to doubt that “a good idea” was a thing that could even exist. I was unable to make a decision. So I parked myself on a bench and started gnawing on a cookie from my stash of emergency rations. I didn’t feel hungry, but I often don’t when I’m travelling, and a blood sugar crash had managed to sneak up on me. After about 10 minutes of sitting and snacking, I was starting to feel a bit less wilted.

Gawan apologized: he was on a mission to escape the airport and he was utterly focused on that goal to the exclusion of all else, including food. I was OK. I had gone until I couldn’t anymore and then I stopped. When we discussed it, I understood his desire to push on, and he understood my need for a break. No harsh words were exchanged, no resentment festered. And we learned important things about each other.

We located the proper place for shuttles and commenced waiting again. Here the travellers formed a loose and anxious scrum rather than an orderly queue. One woman down the way had apparently been waiting for a shuttle — our shuttle — for ages, so we hadn’t missed it and that was a bit of relief. But it was getting to be rush hour, time was a-wasting and I was feeling jangly from all the minutia of travel that required my attention. I was starting to fret about how much time I’d actually have at the hotel before I had to turn around and come back and I briefly considered calling off the excursion and parting ways then and there… but [deep breath]… really, there was still a fair amount of time and the hotel wasn’t far.

A shuttle arrived but when it rains, it pours, and a moment later another shuttle bearing the same hotel name pulled up to the curb. Each served a different branch of the same hotel, and both branches were considered to be “near the airport”. Both buses were also in a hurry to be off. So which hotel had Gawan booked? He was fairly sure he knew but he didn’t recall with certainty. I had no idea and was no help at all. He selected one, and I followed, worried that it was the wrong one. We wouldn’t know if we won the gamble until we finally arrived at the hotel — Gawan would try to check in, and, before speaking, the concierge would give his oracular response: a frown and puzzled look would mean bad news, and completion of the transaction with utter obliviousness to the enormity of the moment would mean good news.

On the main road we were immediately plunged into a sluggish knot of terrible traffic. I knew the hotel was close, but how close? A short distance at a crawl is as bad as a long distance at full speed. What if I didn’t get back to the airport on time? What if it was a mistake to have left? Fuck.

We took the first or second exit and it hadn’t taken so long after all. But clearly I was already stressed.

We arrived at the hotel and… the concierge was oblivious. Good news! Now, up to the room.

Gawan: last hours abroad

The trip back to civilization was not overly civilized.

It began at an ungodly hour, but because I was anxious about missing our bus, I was awake about an hour before the alarm. It turned out that Gawan was awake too, but we were both trying to sleep, and trying to let the other sleep. We had done most of our packing the night before and, once mobile, were able to slip out quickly, latching the door quietly in the echoing gloom so as not to disturb the other guests.

Downstairs, a single bulb struggled – and failed – to light the whole of the main floor. We were met by one of the staff but there was little enough for him to do, since all financial matters had been settled in advance. Gawan handed him our one key card. He might have checked us off a list. The lobby was so shadowed that I didn’t immediately see the cook and the waitress silently and sleepily sharing a couch near the door. I’ve no idea why they were even there.

We were the airport bus’s very first stop, so when it finally rolled up about 30 minutes late I was feeling somewhat resentful about lost sleep. The hotel man helped us shift our luggage out onto the sidewalk in the humid darkness. It was too early for speech louder than a murmur, and the rumbling of the engine offended against the night. We loaded up and then rumbled off into the abandoned streets.

The bus route took over two hours. I think I managed to doze off briefly, lulled by the silent highway in the grey dawn. When we reached the countryside, lush greenery butted up to the edge of the road. From time to time we passed groups of optimistic locals waiting at the side of the road, hoping for a lift, but the bus never slowed down.

At one of our stops, there was a bit of a hassle. We were waiting for someone. Waiting a good while, actually. The traveller in question finally appeared in a T-shirt and shorts, but notably without any luggage, and got into a discussion with the travel company rep. His flight didn’t leave for hours, he said, and he didn’t want to go on the bus, it was too early. (Mhmm.) He’d find his own way there. (Assuming he could scare up a cab.) So that issue was resolved, and yet we waited.

It wasn’t long before a dishevelled woman scrambled up the steps and issued a general apology to the passengers – she had been told that she’d be picked up hours hence and, when the knock came on her door, had to dash about in a frenzy of packing. When we were on the road and the rep asked her if she had her passport, she said, “I think so. But you rushed me so much I don’t know where it is.” Ma’am, I’m afraid that argument is not going to get you on a plane. But hey, not my circus and not my monkeys.

We made it to the airport before the plane left, so that was a success. Having been up so early and missing out on a proper breakfast, I was desperate to find some food. What we found was uninspiring but did the job and consumed most of our remaining shekels. Then we sat listlessly but companionably on a metal bench awaiting the plane.

Eventually we were shoehorned into cramped seats once again, and the only thing missing to complete the ambiance was a few tethered and bleating goats and some squawking chickens in cages on people’s laps.

The place we were leaving was a vacation destination, and most of the travellers had just gotten their fill of sun and sand and bottomless watery cocktails at the all-inclusive resorts. Many were in high spirits and travelling in groups rather than pairs or singles. Hence loud. I’m sure there were at least a few shambling hangovers, not to mention some who were still drunk. Or drunk again, this time on miniature airplane booze. It was the sort of flight where you start imagining popping loudmouths on the nose. Or at least I do.

Because I have blood sugar issues and because getting regular meals while travelling is a challenge, it’s my habit to eat whatever is put in front of me. The in-flight food options were announced over the PA system, with one option being described as bruschetta with tomato or some such. When the flight attendant came around, she called it “cheese pizza”. I took it. I had one bite, and regretfully dismissed it as inedible. At least the flight wasn’t too long, and I had eaten well enough on the ground to last me a while.

Back in civilization, that tightly packed plane finally belched us into the terminal, and Gawan and I would soon part ways. But not just yet. I had 7 hours between the arrival of the one flight and the departure of the next. Lots of time to kill. Gawan was staying in the city overnight then flying out for another short adventure the next day. What to do?